Uganda’s first lady of public accounting

By Vision Reporter

In a country in which finding a good job is like passing through the eye of a needle, Sheila Kanyali did more than that: She is the first woman in Uganda to be certified as a public accountant

In a country in which finding a good job is like passing through the eye of a needle, Sheila Kanyali did more than that: She is the first woman in Uganda to be certified as a public accountant. Denis Jjuuko and Edris Kisambira caught up with her at her office.

The year was 1999. As a junior at the Crusader House-based firm, her bosses encouraged her to enroll for a professional accountancy course at the Institute of Certified Public Accountants Uganda (CPAU). Now, seated in her office at PK Bahemuka and Co Certified Public Accountants, Sheila Kanyali tells of her journey from a simple graduate four years ago to becoming the first certified female Ugandan public accountant.

Since she already had a degree with a bias towards accounting, Kanyali had to start her tedious course at level three. There are five levels that are supposed to be completed over a maximum period of 10 years for one to become a certified public accountant. Kanyali excelled in a record time of under three years.

“There are five tough papers at level three. In order to advance, you have to pass them all at the first sitting,” she says with a chuckle. The papers include the burdensome Auditing and the hardest: Management Decision and Control.

“I felt happy because I am the first female Ugandan to pass all these papers,” she cheerfully adds.

The same story goes at level four. The only difference is the number of papers: “You have to pass all the three papers in one sitting in order to advance to the final stage,” she further explains. Needless to say she passed them all with flying colours.

However, it wasn’t merrymaking all the way. The road to success is stony, with bigger potholes than those that greet you as you cruise that treasured machine through the city. The pressure intensified. She had to balance her work with her books.

At times she had to go to auditing firms in unfriendly locations tucked away in the countryside. But she never lost ‘gas’ for her tiresome studies: “But here I had to excel in one paper: the integration of knowledge,” she reveals.

She would not have become a certified accountant had she given up her job in a bid to concentrate on her demanding studies, because the student is required to have at least a vigorous minimum working experience of three years.

CPAU is equivalent to such highly publicised UK courses like ACCA and CIMA. The only difference is that CPAU is designed to cater for professional Ugandan accountants with a local governing body. Its exams are carried out twice every year, in June and December.

Kanyali says by the time she embarked on the process of further professionalising her career, she was still staying at her parents home on Mawanda Road in Kamwokya, so the biggest problem was balancing her studies with the job: “It was very hectic. I used to rest for only two hours a day because I had to beat my deadlines and yet I had the task of catching up with my studies,” she recalls. “But the end result is enjoyable.”

Indeed, it is because the towering 28-year-old brainy is already an Assistant Senior Accountant. It isn’t easy to reach that level in a profession full of experienced men from the previous generation. “Working with PK Bahemuka is an awesome experience. Everybody is helpful,” she says.

Her bosses, Pius K. Bahemuka and Ulrich Johnson, are all smiles: Kanyali emerged victorious in her final exam in June this year.

“She has a great future ahead of her and we are tremendously pleased,” Johnson says.

Kanyali went through Gayaza Junior before joining Kings College Budo for her O-levels.

In 1994, she completed her A-level papers at Makerere College before crossing to the Ivory Tower.

She was born third in a family of six. Her father Fred Kanyali is a retired hotelier, while her mother Margaret, works with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

When she is not busy in her office, she is either watching movies or visiting art exhibitions.

And hey, guys, this is bad news for you: The talented accountant is already engaged to Pius Isingoma, an engineer with Hewasa Construction Company. That explains the golden ring on her finger that flashes every time she expresses a point.

To the other women out there, Kanyali says: “Women should strive to be the best.” To those interested in accountancy she says: “CPAU is very marketable ,as it empowers the student with problem solving techniques.” She further adds that with CPAU, one is trained to work in any given environment.

Surprisingly, Kanyali is still ambitious:

“I would like to embark on a Master’s degree in a related field, probably finance,” she says.

To her, the sky is obviously the limit.

Uganda’s first lady of public accounting